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Tips on beating word limits?

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Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 00:15
I just got down to writing down a part of my essays, and I realized how stingy one has to be with words! It is so easy to go over the word limit.
Any tips/best practices from the veterans/current applicants are highly appreciated.

Thanks!
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 02:02
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The first draft I wrote was nowhere close to the word limit. What I did was identify the key points, elaborate on it and then I started paraphrasing and combining sentences. I read the entire essay and every sentence, I asked: What is this sentence adding?

I also read somewhere that reading the essay backwards helps. Like last sentence to first sentence. This helped me cut down a lot of unnecessary fluff. Other than that, have someone else read your drafts. If you can have one person read each of your drafts that'll be really great. I had a friend of mine literally tear apart my essays, and I did quite a few drafts :)
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 05:08
Get ready to write the same essay 3 or 4 times is all I can say. I did the same approach as above. I would write my first draft being somewhat aware of the word count, ie. if it was 500 words I would aim for about a page. When I finished the first draft I would reread it and cut stuff out that wasn't really adding value. After the first pass I popped word count to see where I was at. Then it's reread #2 time to see if there were thoughts that could be tightened up or supporting sentences that could be blended. Overall, I think best approach is to get all your ideas on paper within a general "range", then begin cutting down the words to tailor the limit. I've only written my essays for Columbia, Tuck, and 2 for Cornell at this point, but I've gotten all my essays at or slightly under (2-5 words) the limits. It's time-consuming, but your mileage may vary.
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 06:41
I wouldnt mind the word limit of the first draft too much. My wharton essays were well over the word limit initially but I gradually reduced them to +5- 10% in the third iteration. I think that should do good for most schools.
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 20:58
Thanks everyone !
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 21:26
hmm, am i the only one out there who is finding it actually hard to fill word count? for "why do you want an MBA?" i am going over, but for the other short answer questions (600 words/question for wharton, for example) i am coming in under and in some cases forcing content...
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2011, 23:18
ukulelegal85 wrote:
hmm, am i the only one out there who is finding it actually hard to fill word count? for "why do you want an MBA?" i am going over, but for the other short answer questions (600 words/question for wharton, for example) i am coming in under and in some cases forcing content...


I just started with the 1 of the 3 accomplishments for the HBS essay, and it went over 200 words. I haven't started with any 600 word question yet.
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2011, 05:37
Anything under 600 words shouldn't be too challenging to fill-in the word count. I had one essay (for Kellogg but I won't be applying until RD2 depending admissions in RD1) that I was shy about 100 words on. I scrapped that essay and picked a different experience to write about. The way I see it (again everyone is different), is if I can't think of enough exciting or interesting facts to support my essay... then clearly it's not as significant as it should be. Your essays are prime real estate, limited word counts to maximize your value, don't sell yourself short.
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2011, 06:59
ukulelegal85 wrote:
hmm, am i the only one out there who is finding it actually hard to fill word count? for "why do you want an MBA?" i am going over, but for the other short answer questions (600 words/question for wharton, for example) i am coming in under and in some cases forcing content...


When writing essays be sure to focus on not just the what, but the how. Take the adcom through the steps you took and your thought process. Also, be sure to discuss what you learned from the experience. If you can tie it into your need for an MBA, potential endeavors at the school, and/or career goals even better. 600 words really isn't a lot so if you've done all of that and are still short then you need to choose different experiences about which to write.
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2011, 08:18
tip: write less

Jokes aside, the biggest mistake I see people make is they spend 80% of their time (or space so to speak) 'setting up' the story.

For instance, you might write:

"In 2002, I was staffed to a project with Widget Bunko Inc in Topeka Kansas. I was placed in charge of managing the strategic direction of Widget Bunko's Product Development team. AT the time, a number of manufacturing problems in Manila were causing Bunko's Automated Product Delivery Chevron Of Moooooo (BAPDCOM) to slow down throughput. I knew these problems were difficult. I was not directly responsible for this product line but decided that I knew how to make it work. I approached my boss and told him that I wanted to go to Manila and fix the BAPDCOM. I had a plan and I wanted him to know that, but he knew that six months ago another Associate had gone to the BAPDCOM and managed to make things worse, turning the BAPDCOM into a machine that spewed arsenic on its operator. The factory in Manila had decided that "management" was not to be trusted, especially since the BAPDCOM now killed someone every three hours. I knew I was going to have to convince the factory floor that they shouldn't be afraid of me. I had previously worked on a FONTIFOO, a device used in the emulsification of opiates on another project with the Columbian Cartel. I knew I would be able to use my experiences on the FONTIFOO to help fix the BAPDCOM but I had to convince people. My boss was skeptical so I had to ask a few times and present a powerpoint and excel file. As an added challenge, Manila is far away from my home town of Topeka, so flying there was going to be tricky and I had to plan ahead as much as possible. I developed a plan of what I was going to do and I brought it to my boss on a Tuesday. On Wednesday he read it and emailed me about it and I revised it based on his advice. On Thursday, the BAPDCOM became self-aware and started taunting the employees in Manila, so I knew I was running out of time. BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA.... and then I got there and I fixed it and wow it was awesome and we sold 12 more widgets in 2003. "

You write that, I read it and I spend another thousand hours trying to invent a way to stab people through the internet.

Instead write:

"In 2002, while consulting to a Fortune 500 Widget Manufacturer I approached my manager about ..... "

My point is that, usually, the background to a story is really one four of five sentences, not three paragraphs. I generally find that you can cut 50% of whatever people said as "background info" and still retain the gist of the story.
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2011, 08:23
ukulelegal85 wrote:
hmm, am i the only one out there who is finding it actually hard to fill word count? for "why do you want an MBA?" i am going over, but for the other short answer questions (600 words/question for wharton, for example) i am coming in under and in some cases forcing content...


This thread may be just for you.
breaking-down-the-2012-wharton-essays-117238.html
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Re: Tips on beating word limits? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2011, 18:59
golantrevize wrote:
I just started with the 1 of the 3 accomplishments for the HBS essay, and it went over 200 words. I haven't started with any 600 word question yet.


Parts of the accomplishments essay should read like a resume: bullets highlighting what you did and the quantifiable outcome. For instance, "I led 3 junior engineers in designing our new XYZ product which was forecasted to generate $XXX million in revenue next year. We delivered the project 1 month early, allowing us to beat forecasts by X%, and I was promoted to XYZ after..."

With that as the end goal, only tell as much as you need to tell to get to that critical point. Of course, not all stories will read like that (for instance, if the Accomplishment were about personal growth) but the stories about work usually do. So aim for that.

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Re: Tips on beating word limits?   [#permalink] 15 Aug 2011, 18:59
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